Scientists developed portable nuclear reactor with amazing feature: ‘Transformative for our economy, industry, and communities’
A small nuclear reactor that can run for eight years or more without water is scheduled to go online by 2029 in Saskatchewan, Canada.
In November, Saskatchewan’s government announced an $80 million CAD (about $59 million USD) project from the Saskatchewan Research Council to demonstrate the microreactor’s capability. The unit, called an eVinci, is being built by Westinghouse.
“This project has the opportunity to be transformative for our economy, industry, and communities,” Premier Scott Moe said in a government press release. “Microreactors provide a custom solution for Saskatchewan’s unique energy needs.”
It’s also cleaner energy, as each eVinci will “reduce up to 55,000 tons” of air pollution each year, according to Westinghouse.
The unit will be capable of “producing five megawatts of electricity, over 13 megawatts of high-temperature heat, or operating in combined heat and power mode,” per the council.
For reference, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reported in 2012 that a single megawatt of capacity for a conventional power plant produces energy similar to what is used by 400 to 900 homes in a year.
Westinghouse considers their unit “revolutionary” technology for future energy needs, per a video clip. Microreactors are notable for their portability and potential to power remote locations. The U.S. Energy Department reports that several kinds are in development in the United States.
The eVinci will be installed above ground with a small footprint. The unit’s supporting infrastructure will fit inside a hockey rink. The power can be integrated into existing grids, and it can be paired with renewable power sources, as well.
With its “heat pipe technology,” the system doesn’t need water to cool down. After an approximate eight-year service life, the unit can be hauled away for disposal, and another one can be plugged in, all per Westinghouse.
“A simple design, functioning like a battery,” the clip’s narrator says.
In the U.S., the plants create about 2,205 tons of nuclear waste a year, less than half the volume of an Olympic swimming pool. The fuel comes in the form of ceramic pellets (no oozy drums), and researchers are discovering better ways to deal with the waste, including nuke-loving bacteria.
Westinghouse experts report that the eVinci’s used fuel will be returned to the company or placed deep underground for long-term storage. The design eliminates risk from high pressure and coolant loss. What’s more, the heat the unit makes could be used for industrial work, all per the company.
The council sees this first eVinci as a proof-of-concept unit, preparing the way for more in the future.
“What we learn through this project will prepare [the council] to assist communities and industries in future projects,” council CEO Mike Crabtree said in the press release.
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